This is my 500th blog. Whew. Each week for almost 10 years I’ve been answering someone’s question and each week I get lots more questions. I’ve so appreciated all the community and support you give one another here. Thank you.
Some of you are going to the 2018 CONQUER Conference. I would love to meet you and have you meet one another. If you are a part of this blog community and you are coming to the conference, I want you to find one another. Please e-mail me and let me know. Also, during the Friday night desert time please meet me by my book table so that I can meet you and you can meet one another.
Today’s Question: I have been married for 27 years. We were very happy in the beginning. About 10 years ago my husband began to drink and became verbally abusive toward our children and me. He has not held down a job and spends recklessly resulting in the loss of our house.
I left him in July and am trying to rebuild my life. It seems to me he “hides” behind his alcoholism and wears it as a badge of honor as if I am to stick with him because it is a disease and take what comes with it.
Is it wrong to leave someone with a disease that results in abuse?
Answer: Great question and I believe an important one to tackle on this site because of all the nuances that this question brings up.
There are people who have all kinds of chronic diseases. For example, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Coronary Artery Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Hashimoto (thyroid) Disease, or Lupus. Yet, when afflicted with a disease of any kind, a person has crucial lifestyle choices to make in the management of that disease as well as how they choose to steward their body.
From your question, it sounds as if your husband uses the disease model of alcoholism for an excuse to act out, to be irresponsible for his health, his work, and his family responsibilities. He operates as if he has a “victim mindset.” In other words, he’s telling himself, “I have a disease of alcoholism, therefore there is nothing I can do but drink to excess, act irresponsibly, not work steadily, emotionally vomit all over my family and mismanage the family money.”
But none of that is true. If you accept the “disease” model of alcoholism, he still has important choices to make. He can abstain from alcohol because he sees the harm it causes him and his family. He can attend Alcoholics Anonymous for the support he needs to stay sober. He can take Antabuse, which is a pretty effective little pill that helps people not drink. The medication doesn’t address their inner demons of why they drink, but it makes them violently ill if they drink alcohol, which is a pretty good deterrent if someone desires to stay sober.
Let me put it another way. Let’s say your husband had Type 1 Diabetes and his blood sugar was out of control. He’s having circulation problems, he’s been warned he might go blind or have to have his foot or leg amputated if he doesn’t start watching his diet and monitoring his blood sugars better.
You’re worried because you don’t want to have to have to take care of a husband who is blind and in a wheelchair because of his own poor choices in how he handled his disease. Yet he continues to overeat, drink 5 cola’s a day, eat sugar to excess and refuse to monitor his blood sugars. But when you complain or confront him about what he’s doing he tells you, “I have a Diabetes, a disease. It’s not my fault I got the unlucky cards in the genetic deck.”
Not true. Yes, he has diabetes, but you must ask yourself this question. Are his “health consequences” a result of the disease or the result of his poor choices in not managing his disease and stewarding his body?
If the answer is that the consequences are from his own sinful choices, the second question you must ask yourself is this. Are those negative consequences supposed to be gracefully absorbed by you as a good or godly wife, or is something more redemptive called for here? Are you to bear this load or is he? (Galatians 6:5).
For example, If your husband had Alzheimer’s disease or Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) we know that there is an observable decline of functioning due to no neglect of their own. It is simply the natural progression of the disease. When that is the case, the most loving, godly thing for a spouse (or adult child) to do is accept their spouse’s decline without resentment and sacrificially care for the person as you are able.
However, that is not the case in this situation. Have you and your children tried an intervention with him to see if you can bring him to a place of repentance? I am only guessing here, but I imagine you’ve gone that route with no real changes. But if not, you might want to consult with an intervention specialist and plan a purposeful intervention to present him with the reality of his choices.
However, after all else has failed your decision to separate from your husband can be the most loving thing you can do to try to wake him up to his destructive behaviors. Not only is this behavior emotionally and financially destructive to you and your children, but his behaviors are also destructive to his own body and mind. Your separation draws a strong line in the sand that says, “Now it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to let this disease control you, or you are going to choose to get the tools and help to stop it.”
2 Peter 2:19 reminds us that we are a slave to whatever controls us.
That could be alcohol or drugs, but that verse could also be broadened to mean our anger, our lust, or any other emotion that rules our life.
Sin has consequences. Those consequences are meant to wake us up to the insanity and destructiveness of sin. Click To Tweet
When we, as loving and caring people, put all kinds of cushy pillows around those we love so that they don’t experience the negative consequences of their own foolishness, we are not helping them. We are only enabling them to stay deceived longer and therefore have more opportunities to do damage to themselves and to others.
Stay with your boundaries friend. But don’t do it in anger or resentment but rather in Christ’s love. You can respond,
“I love you too much to collude with your delusion that you have no choices here.
Yes, you have the disease of alcoholism, but there are many people who have that disease but don’t drink, work hard to stay sober, stay gainfully employed, and don’t verbally abuse their children or spouse.
You have lost your way and the alcohol is deceiving you and deforming you from being the man you could have been. I accept you have the disease of alcoholism, but I do not accept how you handle your disease.
Your choices are causing you and our family more problems. Alcoholism does not give you a license to be reckless with yourself or our lives. I’m hoping you will choose life, so you may live. (Deuteronomy 30:19).”
Friends, when you’ve dealt with an addict, whether drug, alcohol or sexual, how have you let go of the “guilt” that you have to stick around and bear the consequences of his poor choices?
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This is probably one of the best responses to a question that many people are up against.
Your question was how do we let go of the guilt of not sticking around to absorb the consequences of someone else’s choices.
For me, it would be false guilt that I would be absorbing and that would not be good for my own well being as being responsible as the steward of my life.
Also, I think I would feel More true guilt and unsettled by enabling this situation or not having appropriate boundaries.
I think this question and situation pertains to so many areas.
Like you said, enabling someone ‘we love’ to stay deceived longer creates more opportunity to harm themselves and others isn’t ‘HELPING’ nor is it also loving someone.
The addict or abusive individual will always have their definition of what love ‘feels’ like to them. They have a skewed mindset about this and we don’t have to adopt their versions.
Often, the way they feel most loved and accepted is when they are enabled.
My heart goes out to the brave writer here. She has done a loving thing by distancing herself and hopefully her kids from being the one who absorbs the negative outcomes of poor choices.
Since he is willing to admit the disease, its even more expected…. that he needs a lot of structure to choose to be a responsible individual. But he must do his part of participating. No one can do this part for him.
You say, ” I think I would feel more true guilt and unsettled by enabling this situation or not having appropriate boundaries.”
This is the place that I hope to be one day. My boundaries are still ‘inside out’ even though I am ‘doing’ all the appropriate heart guarding!
You say, ” I think I would feel more true guilt and unsettled by enabling this situation or not having appropriate boundaries.”
This is the place that I hope to be one day. My boundaries are still ‘inside out’ even though I am ‘doing’ all the appropriate heart guarding.
Wow this really hits home for me. My husband hasn’t taken care of himself at all. Has gotten no exercise, is probably diabetic, had a heart attack at 50, stopped taking his medications, has pain and numbness in feet and legs. His entire leg went numb last week he almost fell, he smokes a pack a day. I think he has brain issues from playing football. And he won’t go to the doctor ever. He just complains and moans. Wenused ti is a lot of things. Now he is unable to do much is anything. His foot even goes numb driving. I have felt the guilt of supporting my husband ‘s health. But he takes no responsibility for any of his health. I have no life compared to what we once had. My husband can’t even walk through Costco anymore.
So dear one, follow Leslie’s advice and stay away. Your husband will never do any better for himself. He won’t take responsibility for himself. And you will just pay with an unhappy life. You will just be feeding his ability to ignore everything.
Leslie is right. I wish I had know this 27 years ago. I would have spared my children and myself from the destructive behaviors. I see the result of the terrible effects on my kids, even the ones who were adults when the drug abuse started. Only God can repair the damage. My husband is getting help and is better but not until I had the courage to leave and set boundaries. I’m coming to the Conquer Conference and am so grateful a friend told me about Leslie. God used her book to help me see truth. Now I’m learning to move on from the guilt of what it did to all my kids.
It took me many years of denial to see the same problem. It took him driving one of my children while drunk, terrifying her, and hitting a parked car while trying to park in front of her friends until I woke up. That day I spent the next week preparing to leave with the kids. I thankfully had a group of supportive friends who interceded and were my voice to him (I was and still am dealing with C-PTSD and cannot deal well with him) to let him know the only course of action I would accept. He didn’t do any of it. He spent several weeks trying to do things his way to get me back. After five months he served me with divorce papers. God is good! I realize that I was one who was allowing my children and myself to be abused by continuing to stick around in a dangerous situation. Once I took a biblical approach, things changed for the first time in years. I will not say it has been easy. On the contrary – it has been the hardest years of my life yet – almost harder than the abuse. But I no longer feel disconnected from my Maker and hopeless. I feel alive, loved, capable and confident that God really does have a plan that is good for my children and for me. Praise the LORD!
“But I no longer feel disconnected from my Maker and hopeless. I feel alive, loved, capable and confident that God really does have a plan that is good for my children and for me. Praise the LORD!”
I am rejoicing with you! I feel the same way.
I’m in that same space that things are really hard. There are days I question whether I did the right thing to leave the emotional abuse. I’m two years out and maybe for the first time facing the reality that I could be alone the rest of my life (as far as a spouse) and having to work two jobs to make ends meet for many years to come.
I’m struggling with that possible reality tonight. With wondering if I really heard God accurately through all the things that happened when I did separate. With wondering if there’s something wrong with me….others have put up with much worse than I did in my marriage.
Hi Contentin Christ,
I’m sorry for the pain that you are in right now. The battle is painful.
Try not to compare yourself with others Content. It’s so tempting to do, but it’s destructive. The Lord is with you and knows where He is leading you.
I don’t know if this is helpful but here’s a definition of victory. It is simply turning to The Lord and being obedient. Defining victory by externals ( marital status, bank account, comfort level) is a trap.
Keep your eyes on the One who died for you and loves you more that you can imagine.
Maybe Hosea 2:14 – will speak to you…
Grace and Peace to you in this difficult season ❤️
Thank you, Nancy, for your encouragement. I appreciate it. I looked up the verse. It is sweet. I definitely feel like I’m in a wilderness right now so that speaks to me. I feel spiritually dry right now. Have been praying that God will speak some hope to me.
All of your words were helpful.
This life just feels so hard at times.
Just wanted you to know that I received some counsel today from the pastor that has counseled me throughout my separation. I was talking about my confusion about whether I heard from God right about separating, etc. Among a lot of other very wise advice he gave, he said that I should never let my circumstances or feelings dictate whether I think I’m in God’s will or not. He used the story of Jeremiah following God’s voice and being obedient and how he landed in a war zone. His suffering was great. The hardships were not a reason to believe that he wasn’t in God’s will. They were part of following God’s voice.
I didn’t really recognize that I was doing this the other day – letting my circumstances speak so much to me, but you and this pastor have brought that to light. He also said several times that it sounded like the enemy’s tactics.
So, I’m going to start being very purposeful in engaging in the spiritual battle and taking these thoughts (that I didn’t hear God’s voice right or that I was an unforgiving wife, etc.) captive.
Just thought you might want to know how God used you.
Thank you, ContentinChrist 🙂
Content, it is very normal to feel exactly what you are feeling. The dream of a loving relationship is a healthy one. You were designed for love as God’s daughter. Yet, the relationship you left was not loving, so yes, mourn the loss but never regret that you valued yourself enough to leave.
So, looking forward, what can you do to change your work life? Might you train for a new career? That kind of thinking has many opportunities and resources to explore. Might you live in a different area of the country? Costs of living vary as do living arrangements. Maybe these thought are a good time to push you towards new goals. When was the last time you spoke with a career counselor?
Also, fill your fellowship time with people who don’t drain you. Cut the obligation relationships out of your life as much as possible. Seek companship that is fulfilling to your heart, mind and spirit. Laugh more, exercise more, dance to music, take your shoes off and walk barefoot…seize the day!
I think your response is such a loving and wise encouragement. I think it can apply to many of us that have chosen to Value ourselves enough to step away or completely remove ourselves from dynamics of abuse (overt and covert).
Free, thank you so much for your words. Love them all.
I actually am really happy with both of my jobs. I think it is just that I’m two years in and the reality is hitting me that I’m “alone” and it is up to me. (I know, spiritually, that is not the truth, though!)
I don’t know if God has more for me as far as a career or a different step. The reality is I don’t know what I’d do. I have no, zero, zilch desire to go to college. I am very relational and have always liked the idea of conseling others, but again, have no desire to go to school to become a counselor.
But, the neat thing is, both of my jobs I am working with children — one in a school setting and the other is in a teen girls’ Christian foster home. Relational work is a lot of what we do in both places (the school is a private Christian school with a heavy emphasis on relationships). So, God has made a way for me to do what I love to do without a degree. But, yes, the pay is nominal compared to being a counselor.
Moving out of the area is not an option for me. I do feel this sense that God might be calling me to sell my house and move closer into town, though. It will be interesting to see if that transpires into something in the near future. Because I have no idea what that would look like and in many ways, it doesn’t make sense as I pay a very low mortgage where I am.
I need to dance more for sure (and exercise!) Thanks for the encouragement!
Alcoholism is not a disease. A disease process alters vital organs irreparably. Obesity for example isshares many another similarities and is often mislabed Alcoholism is a self induced disorder with psychological pre cursers. Please don’t be fooled by the claims that people who destructively consume alcohol, or food for that matter, are diseased. They may be disturbed, yes, but not diseased. They have choice as compared to someone with multiple sclerosis or ALS does not.
Saying alcoholism is a disease like diabetes is a fallacy. Diabetes gets confirmed by medical testing; alcoholism and addiction does not. Stanton Peele, an addiction specialist, distinguishes between three generations of disease: 1st generation diseases are true medical diseases (diabetes, heart disease, etc.); 2nd generation diseases are mental illnesses; 3rd generation diseases are the addictions. 2nd and 3rd generation diseases are not diagnosed with confirming medical tests. Only seeing the physical part of addiction is reductionistic. We are psycho-somatic beings: body (soma) and soul (psyche). I’ve been counseling addicts and alcoholics for over 30 years.
Hi Chuck and others here.
I understand for your purposes as an addiction counsellor, you need to be specific with your clients. But this is not the context of this blog question. Leslie is addressing the wife of an addict.
This wife should not get into the details of how he chooses to label his addiction. This would result in a power struggle over a label.
The bottom line is that he is not taking responsibility for himself, and Leslie has done a great job of focusing the wife on this basic truth.
Let’s leave the nuances for when an addict chooses to get help, like when they come to see you.
I guess I see it differently. The first step to helping her is to realize the claims of alcoholism as a disease are false. Therefore, her H’s behavior is a choice, not something to be pitied, merciful about or fixed. I think the factual information is extremely helpful and appropriate for this discussion.
Leslie writes, “if you accept the ‘disease’ model of alcohol, he still has important choices to make”.
Clearly, from this statement, we’d find professionals on both sides of the fence.
It would not be wise for the wife to argue a point that professionals haven’t come to a consecensus on. This would only bolster the husband’s position.
Interesting that you should use diabetes as an example. 10 years ago when my husband was diagnosed with diabetes and put on meds which he continued to be on for about a year and a half I told him that as long as he continued to eat like crap and consumme sugary fake foods I would not take care of him if he suffered the consequences of his bad choices. Stroke, heart attack, blindness, amputations, neuropathy- just to name a few . I know it sounds harsh but I also knew he could do something about his life choices. I had started on a journey earlier of eating real food, cutting out all refined sugar, dairy and gluten. I lost 40 pounds and gained energy and a new inspiration for life and being active.
Did you know that in the beginning of the 1900’s gluttony was one of the most preached about subjects? We have the Holy Spirit living in us and we are a temple to be used by God.I could not change my husband but only lead by example. It really was his desire to be right with God that helped him change. He has been off all meds for 10 years and also lost 40
Filling ourselves with etoh or food to fill a void that only God can fill is something that some of us do in life. It is sin.The consequences suck so when you finally acknowledge God as the king of your life and repent He will fill your void and help you do what you need to do to be healthy.
Amen, preach it sister! I just wish you posted the before and after pictures.
I have a similar story in some way, but in my case it is depression that is the illness. My husband will now agree that he has depression, but he doesn’t see it as an illness, just as result of long-term difficult circumstances. He won’t take medication for the depression, as in his mind it is individuals who have caused him to feel this way, rather than being a biological illness that is treatable. He doesn’t see why he should allow other people’s bad behavior towards him to force him to chemically alter his brain.
As a result, he (or at least the depressed side of him) treats myself and our children badly. On a good day he is a wonderful husband and father, but most of the time his behavior looks more like emotional abuse – criticism, anger, withdrawal, rejection, unpredictability. We are entirely controlled because everything has to revolve around him and his moods. At times he leaves our house saying he wants to die, leaving me paralyzed by the phone just waiting for the police to call. Clearly, it is not a healthy environment for me or for our children, and I am at the point where I am considering leaving as the pressure of never knowing what might happen is too much for me to cope with, and I can see anxiety and fear affecting our children.
As things stand, he is not prepared to take steps that would improve his health and so make life for the rest of us more bearable, and without medical and/or psychiatric help I cannot see that things will improve. But at the same time, I have sympathy for him as a horribly unwell person, attacked by an aggressive illness that knocks him down. I am working towards some kind of very frank discussion with him about the effects of his moods and his behaviors on us, but am worried that he won’t be able to see what is happening. I don’t think he has any understanding that he needs to and can be responsible for his own recovery, as he doesn’t see that recovery is possible. I also strongly suspect that if I and the children leave it will be game over for him, and that I would end up being responsible for his complete break-down.
Lucie, you would never be responsible for his complete break down. You are only every responsible for how you treat yourself and how you treat other. At this point you are responsible for keeping your children in a terrible situation. The home environment is dangerous. How can you improve your life? It is unacceptable that your husband is not taking responsibility for his illness. For the sake of you and your children, change your world. What happens to him is not your responsibility. What happens to you and your children IS your responsibility. I know it takes courage to do these kinds of things. Many bloggers on this site have walked in your shoes and have come out victorious. The key is to start educating yourself. Can you join one of Leslie’s groups? Try watching a few Patrick Doyle videos (google him) and let the knowledge fill you.
Hi Lucie, I am so sorry for all you and your family have been through,You seem to have wisdom into your husbands mental health issues.You know you didn’t cause this, can’t control it and cannot fix this.He needs to take ownership of this in order to receive the help he so desperately needs and is available to him, The sad truth is that his brain is chemically altered and the meds would help restore his brain chemistry which would help him think clearly.God in his loving mercy and grace has given this knowledge to us and it is our responsibility to seek it.This is your husbands responsibility and he seems unwilling to do so. I pray that the Lord continues to guide you as you take steps to keep yourself and your children safe.I grew up with a mentally ill father and I understand your empathy for a loved one. However, you don’t have a functioning spouse at present and your children need you to protect them. This is a wonderful place to receive encouragement and support.I am so glad you have reached out as so many of us are on difficult journeys,some further along and some just starting out.
It’s important for you to recognize that whether or not your husband is experiencing a clinical depression, he is still responsible for the way he treats you. It is not automatic that people who are depressed will be angry and abusive to loved ones or others. People who are angry, self-centred, and have a mindset of entitlement are angry, abusive and blaming toward others. Your husband strongly resists the idea that he may have a mood problem with a physiological root, but he is content to blame others, as you write: “as in his mind it is individuals who have caused him to feel this way, rather than being a biological illness that is treatable. He doesn’t see why he should allow other people’s bad behavior towards him to force him…” to take responsiblity for himself. This stance is consistent with someone who chooses to be angry/abusive, not someone who is in the miserable throes of depression and would do anything to feel better. Please don’t be fooled, Lucie. Think and observe carefully, stay connected with this blog, and be prayerful about what the Lord would have you understand clearly.
Thank you all for your concern – I really appreciate it. In this case I do feel certain that depression is the cause. I have read a lot about emotional abuse, but I have never felt that my husband matches the profile of a person who controls out of a sense of entitlement. It has never sat right with me. He is controlling, yes, but it is more because any projects we have as a family (anything from buying a new refrigerator to planning a vacation to seeing friends at the weekend) can only happen when he is feeling well enough to carry them out, so we have to sit and wait, and nothing can ever move forward. He tells me he despises himself, and this is projected onto us and so he is intolerant and angry. He needs endless patient support from me, but he has no resources to give to me, and gets even more angry if I try to share any of my difficulties with him. Having also read now a great deal about depression, I can see that all of this comes from the illness, and the same ‘symptoms’ are seen in relationships between depressives and their partners/families thousands of times over.
I am very tired of this game of waiting, and especially now that I can see that waiting is not helping him to get better. It is true, to a certain extent, that difficult events and people he has had to deal with long-term have triggered his depression, but it has now gone way beyond hoping that once (if ever) those difficult circumstances are behind him he will be able to regain a sense of purpose and shake off the despair. I now feel certain that even if things do get better externally, he will be the same broken person inside, which is why he needs to treat the depression, rather than relying on an improvement in his circumstances for hope for the future. But I can’t see how to let him know that he needs to take action because he is destroying us, without increasing his sense that he has failed, and deepening his sense of despair even further.
I bet you are TiRED! I feel for you and hope that you can see that you have choices also in this situation.
You and your children do not have to be at the whims of your husbands ever-changing moods or imbalances.
You wrote above in a previous post:
“On a good day he is a wonderful husband and father, but most of the time his behavior looks more like emotional abuse – criticism, anger, withdrawal, rejection, unpredictability.”
This is an example of emotional abuse and it is irrelevant where it is derived from.
You also wrote:
“We are entirely controlled because everything has to revolve around him and his moods.”
You are all hostage to him. So yes, this is living and organized or orbiting around someone who IS controlling. Depression might be a deeper root of the reason but it doesn’t change the fact that you are being controlled.
You wouldn’t let a very tired 3 year old decide your daily schedule or routine?
“At times he leaves our house saying he wants to die, leaving me paralyzed by the phone just waiting for the police to call.”
This is serious! Because of how it can and is affecting you and the kids. We are not talking about just a unhealthy environment, he needs serious interventions.
“Clearly, it is not a healthy environment for me or for our children,”
I think you acknowledge that the environment isn’t good. But what are you willing to take action on?
Your husband might acknowledge depression as what he is experiencing, but just acknowledging isn’t enough. He must take another step in order to be responsible for himself and his depression.
I’m not sure I understand what you mean by he needs endless patient support from you?
If you patience? Then I would say no he doesn’t need endless patience from you given these circumstances, what he might very much need is no more patience or tolerance of this from you.
Also, it seems like the relationship dynamic is set up that only he exists (his feelings or moods) and you are not a person who is seen or heard??
I am sure that you know far more than I do about depression and what you are dealing with, however your posts seem to speak of depression as choosing for you? Almost like depression is in the driver’s seat and your husband surrenders to the depression by not treating it appropriately. This is irresponsible and not acceptable for his own health let alone how it affects others.
You have a responsibility as a Help-mate biblically and a responsibility as a mom to your children. Your children could be developing unhealthy coping skills that can set them up for future problems developmentally and emotionally. As their mom and currently healthier of the two parents, you are responsible for their well-being and environment.
I agree with you that he needs to treat the depression and not wait on circumstances to change. But treating the depression will most likely require more than medication and he seems very resistant in general to getting appropriate help?
Have you read Boundaries in Marriage? I think in that book it has help for the resistant spouse. Also, what do you think you need for you and your self care?
Yes, I agree with all of that. But the question remains, very practically, HOW do I do that? How do I force him to accept treatment as part of his responsibility as a husband and father? I can try all the negotiation tactics I can think of, but if he chooses not to respond, what can I do? Is my only option to leave and take the children with me?
Yup, Lucie you have to have consquences. Kick him out, don’t you leave unless he won’t. You can’t make him do anything. Nothing will change unless you change it. The most important part is that you need a plan and a few support people. It only takes a couple of people. Gather wisely, use the law to its full extent, especially for protecting your children.
Moonbeam is correct, you can’t make him DO anything.
But what you can do is see that you have choices and you can choose to not be a part of this ‘trying to function’ with his standard and environmental living.
It’s similar to addicts and resistant people; you have to raise the standard!… (or the floor in their case to. see and give room for them to choose recovery)
If he threatens to harm himself then you call 911 and all the other support interventions you put into place.
Obviously, the children should be elsewhere as you draw these boundaries of him leaving the home etc, getting help etc.
I’m so sorry for all of this. I really feel for you and what you are going through.
What I am about to say will be very hard to hear if you are ready to hear it.
You cannot make your husband take responsibility. There is NOTHING that you can say or do.
You are likely trapped by the belief that you can somehow ‘make him see’ or that you ‘should make him see’. You can’t. And to act out of this belief is to trespass.
If you want health then you must give your husband to The Lord and now focus on what you can control. That’s you. You are your children’s mother and you must take action to get you all into an emotionally safe environment.
It very simple. Not at all easy.
Lean into Jesus like never before. He will lead you, one step at a time, to safety.
A plan and support is essential.
It can be as simple as this:
If he wants to have a marriage and live as a healthy thriving family, he must have a professional counselor and take medication to work a program to deal with his depression.
If he chooses not to those things (which that is the short list) he IS choosing to not have a marriage and responsibly care for his children or stay true to his covenant with you as his wife.
The only ones in the house right now dealing with his depression are you and the kids. Not necessary and far too over- functioning for any of you.
Sounds like he needs inpatient treatment. Do you have a few people who would do an intervention and drive him to the closest mental health facility. I would call a few national hotlines and get advice on how to get him committed to care. You all need him out of your home immediately.
Lucie what Nancy said here is true:
“You are your children’s mother and you must take action to get you all into an emotionally safe environment.”
That safe environment might be your current home but without your husband there?
Or it might be elsewhere.
You children might later resent or hold you responsible (as the healthier parent) for not acting on doing what is right for their protection and security.
They might suffer further from feeling neglected or abandoned by both parents instead of one sick parent.
Agreed Aly. The safe environment might indeed be their current home, without the husband! This would likely be less disruptive to the children.
I remember Judy Hegstrom wife of the reformed abuser, Paul Hegstrom. Saying that her kids were so mad at her. Really, she thought, mad at me? Yes, they blamed her for seeing the problem and not leaving sooner.
500 blogs! Wow.
Just imagine the ripple effects of all those posts. What a wonderful place of connection, encouragement and truth that you have created!
Leslie and others,
I am planning to be at the Conquer conference, and I hope to be able to meet many of you there. Also, if any of you reading this live in central Texas, I’d love to have a way for us to get together occasionally. I hope there will be a way for us to make contact at the conference.
Lucie, I know this may sound harsh but I think some tough love is called for here… your husband is holding you hostage and I believe his stubborn pride is at the root of his behavior. He refuses to see how he is controlling the entire family in a negative manner. It sounds as if you are his permanent caregiver and not his wife. Where are your needs and wants in this relationship? How are you mutually caring for each other? His self- pity is also a form of control.I recognize the behavior because my father was the same way. Whatever your husbands past issues are ( abuse/neglect from childhood) he can’t use that as an excuse to remain a victim as an adult. Help is available and he needs to humble himself and ask and receive it.You have carried this long enough,Lucie. There is only one Savior and his name is Jesus. He loves and cares for you as well as your husband and children. It is not selfish to put on your oxygen mask first before you help others…don’t abandon yourself in your desire to help hm. Think about your children (I don’t know how old they are) but they need to see a brave mom fighting for truth and life. I am preaching to myself here as well. Hope this helps.
This really spoke to my heart, “don’t abandon yourself in your desire to help…”
Oh my goodness. This is what happens when I focus on externals instead of the heart of the matter.
Just this week, I got a call from our nephew who is traveling through from one military assignment to another. He sometimes stays overnight with us. I looked at our calendar and we were available to receive him, but I told him I’d get back to him to confirm.
Upon talking it through with my h I realized that we are really busy this week-end and just because there was a hole in our calendar didn’t mean we had to fill it. Then I heard a whisper in my ear saying that as Christians we are to take every opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ ( our nephew is not a believer). I felt guilty for wanting to say ‘no’. ( first clue- guilt is never from The Lord).
But then I Heard a whisper that gave me Peace, “you cannot give away what you do not possess’. if I don’t respect my limits then I won’t have it (love), to give away.
I would have abandoned myself in order to help.
This is a small example but important for me because it demonstrates the reinforcement of a big lie : being a Christian means abandoning myself.
Anyone have any thoughts on the difference between ‘sacrificial love’ and ‘abandoning oneself’?
Did you check with the kids to see if they might like to see their cousin? I don’t know your circumstances but I would never turn away a young person for lodging, especially a military service person. Hospitality would have trumped whatever else I was doing that weekend. If I was the young man I would have been really hurt to know that family turned me away because the prioritized other activities.
This was not about prioritizing other activities, it was about prioritizing my heart. It was not an emergency. He was completely fine driving with his buddy an extra 2 hours, through to his next assignment.
If you would never turn a young person away for lodging, that’s your choice. As for me, I choose to not live by rules anymore.
I do want to thank you all for your encouragement and very practical advice. I have been preparing myself for some extremely difficult conversations, and really value your prayers.
A couple of people have said that they grew up in families where the father was also depressive, and I would love to know more about how that all worked out – how you saw your mom coping, what it felt like to you at the time, and so on. My children are 9 and 6. Thank you…
I am praying along with you for clarity around what loving boundaries and requirements are needed. I am also praying for you for the strength of The Lord to stand firm in those once you have articulated them to him ( I would recommend that you give him a loving letter that echoes whatever boundaries and requirements that you tell him in person. This will give you something that cannot be twisted and manipulated)
Can I ask you a questions?
You say you are preparing yourself for difficult conversations (plural). Who are these conversations going to be with?
Lucie, I hope your difficult conversations are not with your spouse. You have had enough talk. It is time for action. You have talked and talked and talked. Don Hennessy the author of “How he Gets into Her Head” warns against such things in Chapter 14.
My professional experience with youth who grew up in homes with depressive,abusive parents is that they blames themselves for their parents problems. Each child is different, some grow very compassionate, yet most exhibit all the high risk behaviors of any other dysfunctional home. ( Drugs, Sex, Alcohol, Suicide etc.) High risk home equals insecure, frightened, failure to thrive children, troubled youth and damaged adults.
Oh, I forgot to add cutting. Cutting is the most common self destructive behavior I see among females from dysfunctional homes. It used to be anorexia, but now cutting is the most common behavior we see in my area.
I’m so glad for all the encouragement the women (and few men!) in this community have for you. Words of truth that might be a bit challenging for you to hear, but which have great seeds of hope in them. My prayers for you include having the courage to receive these truths, and take a first step of action.
I don’t think anyone here is denying or disbelieving that your husband may be struggling with depression, and that’s not really the point. His ill health could just as easily be diabetes, or trying to recover from a physical injury. The important point is that his behaviour toward you is controlling, and won’t be addressed by anything but him choosing to change it.
My heart grieved for you when I read your acknowledgement that “He is controlling, yes, but it is more because any projects we have as a family (anything from buying a new refrigerator to planning a vacation to seeing friends at the weekend) can only happen when he is feeling well enough to carry them out, so we have to sit and wait, and nothing can ever move forward. He tells me he despises himself, and this is projected onto us and so he is intolerant and angry. He needs endless patient support from me, but he has no resources to give to me, and gets even more angry if I try to share any of my difficulties with him”.
The key word that is keeping you stuck, dear Lucie, is the word “but”!!! As in, “He is controlling, yes, but………it’s not his fault / he can’t help it / I should have more patience / it’s ok because he isn’t feeling well / his challenges are more important than the damage he does to our family / depression gives him a free pass to be allowed to act like a tyrant……….” etc. Every one of the “buts” you listed, like the ones I added here, absolve your husband of his responsibility to be kind, reasonable, responsible, gentle, etc.
It is not normal or reasonable that you and the children should be cut off from friends because he has no desire to be social; see them anyway!! It is not good for the family that you cannot buy a new refrigerator (necessary for healthy food storage!!!) because he doesn’t have the energy so refuses to let you take on a necessary task that you are perfectly capable of doing; make arrangements for the fridge anyway!!! It is not ok to squelch the dreams & fun of a family vacation because he doesn’t want to take part in the planning, or refuses to go; make those plans and take the kids anyway!!!! Heaping anger upon you and demanding (requiring, even if not verbally demanding) ‘endless patience’ from you is manipulation that keeps you stuck. This is about power and control, not about depression or any other illness.
Please hear this, Lucie; God did not create you to be a dumping ground. With much care for you, blessings.
I believe many people are “addicted”to helping for many reasons.It is good PR for their self- image and also it’s a great distraction from dealing with issues in their own life.I believe my husband suffers from this.He has no limits or boundaries,especially with his FOO. After 26 years of marriage I have legally separated and moved into my own apartment at 64 years of age.God had been so good to me and provided for all my needs.It is always about balance in our lives.Of course we are to help others but I do not think that God ever “ guilts” us into doing this.Yes,the Holy Spirit will “ remind” us but it is to grow us into maturity and to give God all the glory! I found the perfect poster which I had framed for my new place “ She who is brave is free” Here’s to all the incredibly brave women (and men) who are stepping into freedom one step at a time. I have learned so much from you all and I’m grateful to Leslie and her wisdom.
Thanks for sharing. The very first process that the Bible calls us to enter into in marriage is to establish boundary lines around the new little family that ‘God has joined together in matrimony’.
My h and I did not do this and the havoc that this caused in our marriage – over a 20 year period- I can only describe as incideous.
I applaud you for no longer tolerating an ‘open marriage’ ( by this I mean open to his FOO).
I love that you got Free! You made choices for your well being and saw the unhealthy choices of your h toward his FOO and how you didn’t have to walk beside that.
As spouses we all have a choice.
Usually, when it involves FOO it’s a long history of family enmeshment, skewed identity &idolatry.., lots of denial too.
Helping can come in all forms, but in dysfunctional families it’s rarely ‘helping’ it’s actually hurting and enabling.
Acting out of fear rather than faith and twisting what IS and should be Love into a distorted example of what love is.
I have a praise report:
I have accepted a new definition of victory. It is simply: turning to The Lord and being obedient to Him.
We had 3 events this week-end. 2 of the events we were very comfortable with the people, and had a great time. They were fun 🙂 The amount of times that I turned to The Lord during those events…minimal.
The last event was lunch out with my mother. The Lord was everywhere. Beside me, between my h and I, between my mother and I. Protecting our children. We turned to Him in prayer before, and stayed connected to Him and one another throughout that 2 hour lunch. I depended on Him with each breath.
Did she behave any differently? No. But that means nothing because I no longer choose to define victory by externals ( circumstances or other people’s behaviour).
We had victory, and I praise God for His enabling!
Praise God Nancy!💜🌈
Happy Thanksgiving, Nancy! You have a great testimony of thankfulness.
And to you Moon Beam -a month in advance 🙂
Nancy, your definition of victory is also what it means to be an overcomer. Your experience shows us that it is in our trials and tribulations that we become overcomers, victorious. The Lord, in His wisdom, knows that we need these challenges, and at the same time, He supplies us with His bountiful grace to meet those challenges. Praise Him!
Thanks JoAnn. I have been thinking a lot about this definition. I think it also defines ‘walking in The Spirit’ and also ‘how to Love’.
I pray for everyone at the conference this week-end Lord. I ask that you meet each one in a powerful way. In Jesus name.
Nancy, thank you for your prayers, and those of everyone who prayed. Leslie arranged a wonderful conference, full of uplifting messages and a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. I was there with two friends who were helped very much. I didn’t get to meet any of the sisters on the blog, but when I spoke with Leslie, she said that she had met some. There were a lot of “conquerors” there, about a thousand. It was a beautiful time, and I’m glad I went.
I hope that Leslie can rest a bit now. It was obviously a lot of work.
Nancy, I love your definition of victory…”turning to the Lord and being obedient to Him”. So often we think it all has to be tied up with a bow,all loose ends tucked in and a smile on our face and an answer for everyone in order to feel “victorious “. It is in the small internal shifts that Gods sweet grace speaks peace to our souls.You are so right in describing my marriage as “open to his FOO”.That is exactly how it felt- no sense of security that he was safeguarding our relationship and showing his family that it was a priority because sadly it wasn’t. And incideous is also spot on since there’s no obvious big sin going on,why am I making such a huge deal out of this? After all,he’s a good provider,etc,etc.It is freeing to know that it is a big deal to God( since after all he created marriage) and he tells the man to leave mother and father in order to cleave and become one with his wife. I cannot do this work for my husband and I honestly do not see this ever happening. I agree with Aly that denial,false identity,and idolatry are all part of this bondage that I see my husband in.I pray for him yet am at peace with my decision to separate.
I will never forget the story of a young man in our ’emotionally healthy spirituality’ course who shared that his understanding of victory changed drastically when he and his wife lost a baby.
He was in the hospital because his wife had not yet been released ( it was a still birth) and their older son was also in hospital with a life-threatening problem. One night he asked the nurse if she would pray with him. She said yes and turned towards him and they held hands. There was a pause. In that pause he realized that she was not going to pray. He did not know if he could, but found that The Lord gave him the strength to turn towards Him and pray….and so he did.
This was his victory.
When I heard the definition of victory last week, I immediately thought of him. That young man had a HUGE victory. Not at all how you describe what we often define as victory. As you so aptly describe- ‘tied up with a bow with all the loose ends tucked away and a smile on our face’.
We don’t control the circumstances. All we can ask is for the strength to turn to Him amidst them.
I have been married to an alcoholic for 31 years. He was highly functioning in the beginning, able to travel with his work 5 days a week. The drinking kept him from being able to have an interpersonal relationship with me. For many years when I reached out to him to find solutions to better our relationship he turned the issues back on me. As a Christian woman I tried very hard to be a Godly wife and please him. It took me 28 years to finally see that he used emotional and mental manipulation to divert the problems on me. I stayed sad and confused as to why my best efforts never seemed to make a difference. I felt guilty all the time thinking that I just wasn’t spiritual enough and didn’t possess the unconditional love of Christ. It’s a heavy burden to carry never measuring up. This was my weakness and Satan knew it. Through my husband, Satan used my husband’s behavior to keep me in bandage to shame and guilt. When I read, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, I began to find freedom. What I always blamed myself for turned out not to be my responsibility. Yes, I had a lot of work to do concerning my past hurts and abuse, but what I was blaming myself for was not mine but my husband’s responsibility. Living with an active addict feels like hell on earth at times, but I believed that if God says I can find joy in the midst of my circumstances then He will show me and He has. I have good and bad days and I don’t always behave my best, but I am a work in progress and my trials will bring about completeness if I continue to love and seek God.